Can We Teach Empathy?

Questions about our empathetic capacities have interested humans for centuries. Today, we understand that human beings are actually wired for empathy, with vast networks of neuro-transmitters and mirror neurons supporting positive connections.

However, our capacity for empathy is as much the result of our experience and practice as it is of our genetic makeup. Educators can enable this experience and practice.

Some key elements in my own teachings include: 

  • Safe Space: The environment supports my ability to be present, to listen deeply and to feel heard. I know that I have the power to share, keep private, or take back any part of my story.
  • Deep Listening: I feel truly heard and not judged. I know that the act of sharing my story itself takes precedence over the final product.
  • Reciprocity: Rather than one person holding all the power, the experience of storytelling is mutual; everyone has skin in the game.
  • Continuity: I recognize the larger purpose for which my story is shared and that my story “belongs” to something bigger than myself.
  • Action: An action highlights my connections with others in a shared world that needs our energy to make it a better place.

By Alisa Del Tufo